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The latest exercise for processing the January – March 2016 Quarterly Information Returns was completed successfully. Of the 116 organisations required to submit QIRs, 103 undertook consultant lobbying. This included organisations who had in the past submitted multiple nil returns, declaring clients for the first time, highlighting why it is appropriate that those who may lobby only occasionally remain on the Register.
I recognise that registrants are working hard to ensure information declared is correct, with the majority of returns free of administrative errors. However, some errors still occurred. To improve the position still further, I would encourage registrants to check that:
I continue to encourage registrant queries received by the Office regarding their lobbying activities. I have published guidance on my website, but encourage you to contact us if you are still unsure about the answer to your question. It is better to ask than to guess!
It has been a busy year so far at ORCL. Currently 119 organisations are published on the Register and although ten registrants left the Register since it was launched, many more have joined, including legal firms and think tanks.
On 21 March I launched my guidance on information publication and retention, following a consultation which concluded in January. The guidance sets out the approach to any changes made to the face of the Register, the outcome of enforcement activities as well as retention and publication of information on both the Register and the ORCL website.
On 25 March the Register of Consultant Lobbyists reached its first anniversary. Establishing the Register from scratch has been a challenging task involving not only the design of a technical solution and website, but also providing guidance and support to help registrants understand their responsibilities, and how to comply with the legislation. The support of registrants to ensure the information contained in the Register is correct is very much appreciated by the whole team.
On 30 March I published my business plan for 2016-2017, setting out my key priorities for the year. My objectives for the year are to continue to operate an accessible and cost effective Register; continue to ensure that all those required to register do so, through a programme of education, compliance activity and guidance where required and to continue to operate in a cost effective and accountable manner.
On 26 April, I spoke at a meeting of public affairs professionals in Belfast, hosted by PRCA, Northern Ireland. I was joined on the platform by the Head of Lobbying Regulation for Ireland, Ms Sherry Perreault. We discussed the progress of implementation of lobbying regulation in both countries, the differences between the legislation in both jurisdictions, and the potential implications for consultant lobbyists based in Northern Ireland.
During the next few months, I will be continuing my programme of education and compliance activity. I am undertaking some work to establish the correct basis on which those that provide services to All Party Parliamentary Groups should register, and I will provide advice on this in due course. In the autumn, I will be consulting on the issue of what constitutes a relevant code of conduct. Later in the year, we will be making some technical improvements to the system in line with registrant feedback.
I would like to thank you for working with me and my Office, to ensure that the lobbying legislation continues to be implemented effectively. For our latest news, please continue to visit our homepage here.